To Be Empowered Is A Choice Than Fait Accompli….

respect women

Adam and Eve descended together on this planet. They coexisted and evolved through time, struggling for domination and power constantly. Then why, after thousands of years of cohabitation women are still waiting to be empowered by the gender which arrived at the same time as them. In the race of the two sexes, have women been left behind or to be empowered is a choice than fait accompli.

In our own mythology, we have powerful women like Draupadi, who challenged male supremacy and questioned her offenders – Duryodhana who ordered her disrobing and Yudhishthira, who pledged her. We also have Savitri, shrewd and courageous, who impressed Yama with her wit and wisdom to grant her husband, Satyavan’s life. If we have evolved from them, have their DNA then when did the mutation trick us into being subservient, or are we emulating Gandhari, who instead of being her blind husband’s strength chose to blindfold herself. These women existed in the same time span, their beliefs and convictions shaped their lives. Whom you wish to idolize, determines your empowerment status irrespective of your gender.

Historically, exceptional women like Razia Sultan, Rani Lakshmi Bai who defied conventional norms and conformist attitudes, were empowered by their own grit and determination. Irrespective of any laws to protect them, any authorities to help them, ignoring the immense cost they’ll have to bear for their decisions they made the extraordinary choice. Our history boasts of exemplary courage by women in times of extreme adversity, women were instrumental in our own freedom struggle, we had a female Prime Minister in 1966-signifying a more egalitarian past. Have we regressed with time?

Contemporary women are more fortunate and privileged than any of their predecessors, but we still have not been able to shed the victim tag. The ‘Me Too’ campaign of 2018 was shocking and worrying.  The victims were urban, modern, professional women, some even had a celebrity status. But these facades of empowerment were no saviors against vulnerability. It took them years to come out in public and confront their predators, in some cases this time gap was almost 10 years. If education and economic independence cannot empower us, then what will?

The very existence of women empowerment programs indicates that we have a secondary status, which we have happily accepted. Social media campaigns, hoardings and movies presenting us as a vulnerable group, is a continuous propaganda to remind us that we are meek and need protection. Haruki Murakami, through his words” Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”, gives us the life altering choice. Rather than being a bystander in your own life and indulging in self-pity, it is time we stop justifying our shortcomings on our gender and take onus for our decisions.

In India, it is customary not to disclose, the name of a rape victim under the garb of protecting her from humiliation, indirectly instilling that it is a crime worthy of shame. When Suzette Jordan, victim of Park Street (Kolkata) rape case, decided to disclose her identity and appeared on Satyamev Jayate, she put an end to all her humiliation and shame, making rape less burdensome and also encouraging other victims to talk. Rape will continue to be used as a weapon to terrorize, deter and silence women, till the time women see it as loss of honour and pride. It surely effects the soul of the victim but it cannot overshadow the zest for life, it is certainly not the worst thing to happen to a woman.

Women who continue to suffer in abusive marriages, choose suffering as an option over divorce. While, there are many others who chose the unconventional route, are single parents, work hard and emerge victorious. Fearless Kanaka Durga, who defied age-old social mores and entered the Sabarimala Shrine was opposed by many of her own tribe. Later, beaten and abandoned by her mother-in-law, has since filed for divorce. Outspoken, spirited women who do not adhere to the conservative paradigms of an ideal women are often ridiculed by other women. To eradicate such prejudices and stereotypes women who take lead need to be supported and respected, first by other women. Before we blame the misogynistic attitudes of the other gender.

In incidents of dowry deaths, female feticide and domestic violence, along with the husband who is the perpetrator, and is male. We also have his mother or sister who are equal partners and are females. Sita’s misery of 14 years was orchestrated by Kaikeyi, a woman. The judge who passed the outrageous judgement that mere groping cannot be considered sexual assault was a female. Are women pitted against women, else when women comprise half of the global population, how can they be subjugated and discriminated for so long.

If farmers can cut across barriers of caste, creed, religion and emerge as a force to reckon with, to fight for their rights, so can women, who have much more in common to celebrate and fight. Each woman in every household can be the harbinger of an egalitarian social order. It’ll never be easy to be a Nodeep Kaur – a Disha Ravi or a Priya Ramani, crossing Lakshman rekha’s will always be frowned upon, but then only our resolute will change the narratives for the future. As we approach another Women’s Day, its opportune time to choose to be empowered.

Borrowing Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s inspirational words,” I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness because I deserve to be”.

Dr Harleen Shergill ,PhD in Economics, Freelance author and Researcher .



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